China ad­mi­ral touts co­op­er­a­tion while warn­ing on South China Sea

Business Mirror - - ASEANMONDAY -

CHI­NESE Adm. Sun Jian­guo used a speech to global de­fense chiefs to tout his mil­i­tary’s co­op­er­a­tion in the western Pa­cific, while tak­ing aim at the US for sail­ing ships near reefs China claims in the dis­puted South China Sea.

Sun’s ad­dress struck a more con­cil­ia­tory tone at the Shangri- La se­cu­rity di­a­logue in Sin­ga­pore than last year, even as China beefs up its mil­i­tary pres­ence in con­tested ar­eas. He stressed the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army’s in­ter­ac­tions with the mil­i­taries of South­east Asia and coun­tries like In­dia and Ja­pan.

“The Asia-Pa­cific coun­tries have con­sti­tuted a com­mu­nity of shared des­tiny, in­ter­de­pen­dent and in­sep­a­ra­ble,” Sun said on Sun­day. “The bright fu­ture for the Asia-Pa­cific region has to be fa­cil­i­tated by com­mon de­vel­op­ment and com­mon se­cu­rity of all re­gional coun­tries.”

China con­tests more than 80 per­cent of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 tril­lion in seaborne trade passes ev­ery year, over­lap­ping claims from coun­tries like Viet­nam and the Philip­pines. It has re­claimed more than 3,000 acres of land in the area in the past few years, and built some mil­i­tary in­fras­truc­ture.

“China ad­vo­cates a new se­cu­rity out­look, fea­tur­ing in­clu­sive, shared and win-win se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion by all,” Sun said. “From the de­fense and mil­i­tary per­spec­tive, China be­lieves that coun­tries in the Asia-Pa­cific region should work to­gether to pro­mote se­cu­rity gover­nance.”

Ar­bi­tra­tion case

WHILE Sun said China was com­mit­ted to peace and se­cu­rity, he said China would not accept a Hague rul­ing on the South China Sea ex­pected within weeks. The ar­bi­tra­tion court is con­sid­er­ing a Philip­pine challenge to China’s ter­ri­to­rial claims.

In the lead up to the rul­ing, China has mounted a pub­lic re­la­tions blitz in the me­dia to pro­mote its po­si­tion on the wa­ter­way. China’s diplo­mats have been fer­ry­ing around South­east Asian na­tions.

Sun said China’s door was open to in­com­ing Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo R. Duterte to re­sume bilateral talks on their ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute.

“China isn’t out to stir trou­ble but nei­ther is China scared of trou­ble,” Sun said. “China will not stand for its sov­er­eign rights to be tram­pled on.”

“The South China Sea’s freedom of nav­i­ga­tion hasn’t been im­peded be­cause of the ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes,” Sun said. “We stress peace­ful ne­go­ti­a­tions through le­git­i­mate means in re­solv­ing any dis­putes.”

Sun also said China’s mil­i­tary was work­ing well with coun­ter­parts in the US, and cited an agree­ment be­tween the two to man­age un­planned en­coun­ters at sea. At the same time, he im­plic­itly re­buked the US for con­duct­ing freedom of nav­i­ga­tion op­er­a­tions in the South China Sea, where the US has sailed near reefs that China says be­long to it.

“If freedom of nav­i­ga­tion is com­pro­mised in the South China Sea, then China is the largest vic­tim,” he said. “If freedom of nav­i­ga­tion is un­der­mined, then China would not be to blame.”

Sun also re­but­ted US De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash Carter’s com­ment on Satur­day that China risked build­ing a “Great Wall of self­iso­la­tion” through its ac­tions on the South China Sea, say­ing he had had pos­i­tive in­ter­ac­tions at Shangri-La with de­fense min­is­ters and chiefs.

“Most of them are warmer and more friendly to me than last year and they re­spect me and trust me more than last year,” he said. “We have not re­ceived so many ques­tions about the South China Sea as last year.”

“In fact China is open, in­clu­sive and a re­spon­si­ble coun­try, it is a par­tic­i­pa­tor and con­struc­tor and con­trib­u­tor to the cur­rent in­ter­na­tional sys­tem,” Sun said. “We are not iso­lated and we will not be iso­lated in the fu­ture.”

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